It’s a common setup: girl or guy walks into a bar. The ensuing action could be either a positive experience for everyone in the bar or certain disaster. The outcome simply depends upon what side of the coin fate falls. That is the elementary conceit, and basically the entire plot, of the short film, Vicious Circle.
A nameless bar patron (Robby McBride, who also wrote and co-directed with Edith McBride) is happily tossing back a few at a nameless bar. When asked by the bartender (David Murrietta Jr.) if he would like another drink, the guy decides to flip a coin: heads, he leaves, tails, he stays. In either case, a nameless woman (Alexandra Creteau) enters as “the conflict.”
But it’s not her behavior, or anyone’s behavior, that alters the balance of the evening. It’s literally what side of the coin the face winds up on. OK, so fate is a thing.
Lots of movies have been made surrounding the idea of the “things-go-well-in-one-scenario; things-go-poorly-in-a-slightly-different-scenario” binary: 1998’s Sliding Doors comes to mind. However, in that movie, there is at least some build-up before the Gwyneth Paltrow character catches/misses her train. Having the trajectory of events in Vicious Circle rely solely on the spinning of a coin, with barely any build-up or character development behind it, just feels arbitrary.
“When asked…if he would like another drink, the guy decides to flip a coin…”
If the McBrides were eager to explore this scenario, I wish they would have put in a bit more effort into it. Perhaps have the bar patron and some friends arrive to find the bar open and lively in one alternate timeline. Then, in the opposing instance, the bar is closed for some reason, forcing them to spend their evening at another establishment. That circumstance might have provided a sense of consequence and causality that I feel is really what filmmakers exploring this hypothetical intend to explore, rather than plain old dumb luck.
Like Sliding Doors, we see the scenario play out both ways: when the coin lands on its head and when it lands on the tail side. As expected, the result is hunky-dory one way, catastrophic another. Earth-shattering.
On the plus side, the film looks terrific. McBride and Murrietta Jr. have an easy style and look great in a bar setting. The photography is efficient and exhibits a nice grasp of the art of cinematography. The same goes for McBride’s script, coming across as authentic for a drunk dude and a bartender who’s affable but over it.
The movie has an interesting idea, but I wish it were fleshed out in a more innovative and exciting manner. Unlike spinning coins, films can be good, bad, or, like Vicious Circle, land somewhere in the middle.
"…the film looks terrific."